Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the member for Wild Rose. I am pleased to have this opportunity today to rise and speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
The Speech from the Throne is an avenue available to the government to clearly set out its agenda and vision for our country, but with the member from Shawinigan indicating just a short while ago his intention to step aside as our Prime Minister to allow one of his competitors to take his place, the throne speech is more about creating a personal legacy for the member from Shawinigan than creating a well-rounded vision and direction for Canada.
I find this cheapening of the throne speech and its use as a personal political tool shameful and would suggest that the Prime Minister, with his many years of service in this place, should have taken the high road on his way out. Nevertheless, it is done and Canadians are left to battle the rough seas of political and economic uncertainty in a rudderless ship, with a captain on his way out.
If one is from the big cities of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, there may be facets of the throne speech one can find pleasing, but the reality is that those most in need of the government, those producing the wealth in the country, hard-working Canadians, are those in rural, remote and northern Canada. They are all but forgotten in the member from Shawinigan's vision of Canada.
It is what is lacking and who is forgotten in the throne speech that I take issue with. I am a proud Canadian from northwestern B.C. and am offended that the government has ignored us once again. I am angered at the thought that vote-rich areas in southern Canada are more important and more deserving than those of us here in the north.
An example of the member from Shawinigan's narrow urban vision for Canada can be found in his steadfast support for the greenhouse gas emission reduction plan called the Kyoto accord. The reality is that 100 kilometres outside the limit of any major city greenhouse gas emissions are not the top issue on people's minds.
In northern Canada and my riding of Skeena, people put food on the table, pay their mortgages and hydro bills and, when they can afford it, send their kids to college on salaries paid by companies that do business extracting raw materials from the land. Be it forestry, mining, fishing, farming, oil and gas, most companies in northern B.C., northern Ontario, northern Quebec, and even rural Atlantic Canada, produce wealth from our natural resources.
In the north we are mining the metals that go toward making computer chips that run the manufacturing companies. We cut down the trees that make computer desks. The hydroelectricity we generate keeps the lights turned on and those computers running. And without the fishery and our agricultural industry, we would be having a pretty light lunch here today.
I would have to agree that the smog and pollution seen in Canada's big cities is a problem, and more mass transit and better car emission regulations are part of the solution. But to penalize northern and remote communities because of a problem they contribute to in a much lesser degree is not only irresponsible. Frankly, it is another reminder that unless people live in vote-rich southern Canada they just do not count with this Liberal government.
Let us take a look at the problems faced by the softwood lumber industry today as another example that shows the government has no plan and has really given no thought to the difficulties faced by rural, remote and northern Canadians. Here we have an industry that has been struggling to stay in business since the United States, our biggest trading partner, began imposing large tariffs and duties on those importing our products. These tariffs and duties are arbitrary. Even the WTO has agreed that Canada is not dumping lumber into the U.S. market. The U.S. action against Canadian lumber is predatory in nature.
What has the Liberal government done about the softwood lumber crisis? Absolutely nothing. It is not mentioned in the throne speech. There has been nothing that has made one iota of difference in the grand scheme of things. The Minister for International Trade has said he is working through the WTO and other organizations to see a resolution to the impasse. He has said he wants to take a wait-and-see approach and is certain that Canada will win in the end.
That wait-and-see approach so often used by the government has seen numerous sawmills shut down, thousands of jobs lost and, frankly, many families broken up as parents leave their homes in search of work, all because the government prefers to wait. The employees, small businesses and other spinoff economies affected by the softwood lumber crisis, particularly in B.C., cannot wait. They need help now as opposed to more hollow promises of assistance from the government.
The Prime Minister and his throne speech did not address the issues and concerns foremost on the minds and in the hearts of rural, remote and northern Canadians. Why not? What I am talking about today is a lack of certainty. As I said earlier, the government has done nothing with the throne speech to address the uncertainty we are faced with today.
One of the reasons there is a downturn in the economy is the lack of corporate investment in Canada and in particular in northern Canada. In my home province of B.C. not only is investment scared away by Canada's high capital taxes, but the continual aboriginal land claims uncertainty creates an atmosphere in which many businesses find it hard to operate. Recently there were articles in the newspapers citing concern for the future exploration and development of offshore oil and gas off the B.C. coast due to continual land claims wrangling in our courts and, in particular, in the court of public opinion. Until there is certainty of land tenure, British Columbia will find it very difficult to realize its natural resource potential. Unfortunately it is the federal government that continues to drag its feet. The province pays the price.
I have outlined several issues that should either have been addressed more adequately or considered in the throne speech. One area that I know my constituents and most rural, remote and northern Canadians feel should be addressed is the hated gun control legislation, better known as Bill C-68. There is no mention of this in the throne speech. It is a piece of legislation that was sold in the vote-rich cities of southern Canada as the be-all and end-all for solving crime.
The Liberals touted Bill C-68 as the solution to all crime and called it legislation that would mean safer streets in those urban areas. Instead, it meant penalizing rural, remote and northern Canadians. It has done nothing to reduce crime in our cities and has already cost the Canadian taxpayer $1 billion.
I will now move on to a problem exacerbated once again in the throne speech, one with which I am all too familiar having been active in municipal politics for almost 25 years, six of which I spent as mayor of a small, northern remote community in B.C. Infrastructure is the problem to which I am referring, one that has been poorly understood by the government for years. Yes, the throne speech did address the need for more infrastructure funding for cities to deal with needed road repairs, sewer system upgrades and better water treatment facilities, but nothing was done to address the hugely flawed funding formula.
What many MPs may not know is that the funding formula of one-third, one-third and one-third is highly impractical and even impossible to achieve in some smaller rural municipalities. Allow me to explain. In order for much-needed infrastructure repairs to be made in many municipalities, they need to access federal and provincial funding. The one-third formula means that each pays a third of the cost. That is to say, the federal government pays a third, the province pays a third and the municipality must come up with its third.
Large capital projects like those needed to upgrade sewer or water treatment facilities are not cheap. It is not uncommon for smaller municipalities to be unable to come up with their one-third share of the cost of the project. What then? The throne speech said that infrastructure funding would be available. It is available, all right, if we can convince the feds and the province to pay their share and only if the municipality has the tax base to come up with its share. The reality is that many municipalities in northern, rural or remote areas of Canada do not have that tax base to provide their share of the money, so having more infrastructure dollars available to be used for upgrades will not help them.
Again I must say I believe these funds are not directed toward those smaller municipalities in need of federal assistance. I believe this is an example of the government talking like it has funding for everyone but all the while knowing that those funds will mostly be used by the big vote-rich cities for which they were all intended. It is shameful how rural, remote and northern communities are ignored by the government and the Prime Minister in the throne speech.
When I heard the throne speech mention the government's vision for health care, I cringed. There was no vision and there were no new ideas. All Canadians heard was that the government was waiting for the results of the Romanow commission. Again, as I said with softwood lumber, the government is fixated on a wait-and-see attitude about everything. Since 1993 when the Liberal government was first elected, it has been tinkering with health care. Commission after commission, report after report, and here we are three elections later with nothing new. Meanwhile, waiting lines are longer, Canadians have been forced to go to the U.S. for treatment, and northern and remote communities have seen their specialists leave and their MDs burned out and frustrated. The system is not working. That is obvious to everyone except the government.
To conclude, I would like to remind the House and those Canadians watching at home today that there is a better way than the tired old Liberal ideas outlined in the throne speech. I would urge them to forget the tired Liberals and try something new, exciting and enthusiastic: the party I represent, one which represents much of northern, remote and rural Canada, the Canadian Alliance.